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"Gundam 08th MS Team" Gundam At Its Very Best.

The other two Gundam side stories, 0080 and 0083, were created to shed light on the One Year War and act as a bridge between the original Gundam and Zeta Gundam. But with the Universal Century now over and the alternate universes of G Gundam and Gundam Wing king, something had to be done to bring both fanbases together for at least one series. Thus, 08th MS Team.

Cover art for Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team Complete Collection.

The year is U.C. 0079. As the One Year War rages on, mass production of Gundam Mobile Suits has begun. (If you recognize where that line came from, you officially rock.) Ensign Shiro Amada is being transferred from Side 2 to southeast Asia in order to take down the Zeon forces. However, when he falls in love with Zeon soldier Aina Sahalin, his world gets turned upside down. As if that wasn’t enough, the Zeon have a new weapon in the form of the gigantic Mobile Armor Apsalas and the Earth Federation thinks Shiro is a Zeon spy. With intelligence bureau agent Alice Miller breathing down his neck, Shiro must do everything he can to save his comrades before everything is destroyed.

I’m just going to save you the trouble of reading the rest of the review: If you like any Gundam series at all, stop reading and buy this collection.

If you still need convincing, read on. Unlike the other side stories, each and every character in this series is likeable. The characters you’re supposed to like you like, and the characters you’re supposed to hate you hate. There are even characters you’re supposed to hate that end up pretty noble in the end. Not only that, each character is given a specific trait to make them more realistic. Shiro has his idealism, Michel has his cowardice (which isn’t as annoying as Kou’s) and his letters to B.B., Karen has her tough exterior hiding a tragic soul, Sanders has his loyalty, and Ellador has his singing career. And that’s just the Federation. The Zeon side has Aina, who’s struggling between her brother, Guineas, and Shiro, while Guineas is slowly going insane, and Norris, who is one of the most creative pilots ever seen in a Gundam series. You get to know these characters so well in such a short amount of time that you wish this series was a full 50-episode series instead of a short 12-episode OAV.

Probably the most famous image from this series, though it never actually happened in the OAV itself.

But it’s not just the characters that rock, the battles do too. Since all but the first episode take place on Earth, we don’t get the typical full-roaming epic battles like in previous series. Thankfully, the Gundams in this series can’t fly forever like the Gundams in the SEED series, so most of the time the Mobile Suits are running and walking, making them basically glorified tanks. If you like the action in realistic war movies/series like Battlestar Galactica, Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, you’ll love the fighting in this series. It’s a shame that more action anime don’t take the cue and spend more time in realistic ground combat. Most series (especially the alternate universes) act as if the Gundams are only about fifty pounds in weight, but here they really seem like they would weigh the couple hundred tons you’d expect a Gundam to weigh.

Unfortunately, no series is perfect, and 08th MS Team does have some downsides. For one thing, its setting during the One Year War introduces a number of plot holes, since Gundams are apparently commonplace (in the first series, the RX-78 is the only Gundam to see the front lines) and the Apsalas is grossly overpowered for this particular time period. Plus, when Shiro and Aina finally proclaim their love for each other, they both get a bit too idealistic and end up very cheesy, though that’s easily made up by the excellent two-part final battle. And the last episode, “Last Resort,” is pretty much unneeded, as “The Shuddering Mountain” worked perfectly as a series finale. But all of these are really minor nitpicks.

For once in the Universal Century, the animation is actually bright. Colors are the perfect tone and everything doesn’t look unnecessarily dark. The actual animation works extremely well, with the Gundams moving fluidly but mechanically, and the final battle between the 08th Team and Norris’ Custom Gouf has been ranked by fans as one of the greatest Gundam battles of all time, thanks in part to the awesome animation. Really, there’s nothing to complain about on this front.

As if it wasn’t enough to have awesome animation, an awesome story, and awesome characters, we have awesome music to go with it. Both the opening (“Shine in the Storm”) and the ending (“10 Years After”) are very well done and suit this series extremely well. Also, the background music enhances the action and gives the story added oomph.

I feel confident in saying that 08th MS Team has the best dub of any Gundam series to date. Each voice fits their character like a glove and enhances the overall atmosphere of the series.

It figures that the best side story would receive the best extras. The main feature is on Disc 5 with all the animation clips from the PS2 game Journey to Jaburo. It’s a reenactment of the original Gundam series with 08th MS Team-like animation, which makes me wish Bandai would give the movies a much-needed animation update. The game uses the Ocean Group voice cast, so you get all the same voices from the first series. There are also seven short clips which go into more detail from the One Year War by manipulating rendered paintings. Overall, they’re kind of useless, but they’re still fun nonetheless.

Unfortunately, since this set doesn’t come with an insert, we don’t get the inserts from the individual releases, which were letters from Michel to B.B. explaining the situation at hand on each disc. Though also useless, they’re still enjoyable, and I wish Bandai had reprinted them for this set. Your usual textless themes, trailers, and encyclopedia are here as well. Since these side story collections are reissues of old releases, they include the trailers Bandai had back then, which makes me remember just how bad Bandai’s trailers were a few years ago.

It’s like I said earlier: If you like Gundam at all, go buy this collection. It’s as simple as that.

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